When traveling around San Juan, Puerto Rico, you will notice forts are a major theme. Due to its location on an islet, San Juan has needed to protect themselves from all sides from any enemy sea vessels that may try to attack along its periphery through out history. The fort’s official name is Fortín San Jerónimo del Boquerón and it was commissioned in 1608 by the then governor Don Gabriel de Rojas to replace a smaller battery called the El Boquerón and was officially renamed in 1609. Fortín San Jerónimo del Boquerón was perched at the easternmost end of the San Juan islet at the Boquerón beach. The fort was a first line of defense for San Juan (along with the San Antonio Fort/Bridge, Escambrón Fort and finally the majestic San Cristobal Castle (Castillo de San Cristobal).
In 1797, Fortín San Jerónimo del Boquerón, and the adjacent Fort of San Antonio, played a vital role in repelling the invasion of British Admiral Henry Harvey and Sir Ralph Abercromby. Their combined forces of approximately 65 ships and roughly 4,000 British men and German mercenaries landed on the peninsula on April 17, 1797. San Juan’s military forces were outnumbered by the invaders by a ratio of almost three to one. Under the command of Brigadier General Ramón de Castro, and Lt. Col Don Teodmiro del Toro (commander of San Gerónimo) and with the actions of Sergeant Francisco Diaz, the British were detained. On April 30, less than two weeks after the invasion, the British forces retreated in defeat. After the attack, however, San Gerónimo lay in ruins. It was rebuilt in 1799 and continued to serve as a military post until the early 20th century.
Fortín San Jerónimo del Boquerón is currently located adjacent to the grounds of the Caribe Hilton Hotel. Similar forts are part of the San Juan National Historic Site, but Fortin de San Gerónimo is owned privately by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. The Caribe Hilton Hotel actually manages the old fort and, in the past, has utilized it for private gatherings. Unfortunately, it has fallen into such disrepair that it is now closed to the public and visitors are no longer allowed.
On October 11, 1983, Fortín San Jerónimo del Boquerón was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as recently as 2006, attempts have been made to build a breakwater to stop any further deterioration of this historic fort. The U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña have been the major backers in this project. There were protests for a week in July of 2007, when a project called Paseo Caribe was suggested that would block any visitor access to the fort. As of 2009, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act was inacted to conduct a study to determine the suitability of including the fort as part of the San Juan National Historic Site.
The Fortín San Jerónimo del Boquerón is one of the most important cultural resources of the historic maritime cultural corridor of the San Antonio Canal, the San Juan islet and the whole island of Puerto Rico. Hopefully, this fort will be protected and will remain visible to the public eye and maybe, even someday with conservation efforts it will be open to visitors once again.